Follow-up after treatment for pancreatic cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for pancreatic cancer is often shared among the cancer specialists and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • pain in the upper abdomen or upper back
  • weight loss
  • yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (called jaundice)
  • itching
  • changes to digestion, including indigestion, nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite

The chance that pancreatic cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 2 to 3 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for pancreatic cancer are scheduled based on your personal needs. Follow-up visits after surgery for pancreatic cancer are usually scheduled:

  • every 3 to 6 months for the first 3 years
  • then every 6to 12 months for the next 2 years
  • then once a year

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping. They may also ask about any pain and will help you cope with any eating and nutrition problems.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • feeling the abdomen
  • feeling the lymph nodes

Tests may also be a part of follow-up care.

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Pancreatic Cancer. 2016.
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Pancreatic Cancer. 2015.
  • Pancreatic cancer. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Cancer.Net. Alexandria, VA.: American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); 2012.
  • Pancreas. BC Cancer Agency. BC Cancer Agency. Revised ed. Vancouver, BC: BC Cancer Agency; 2013.
  • Pancreatic cancer. Cancer Research UK. CancerHelp UK. Cancer Research UK; 2012.